OnOff Stage

ParticipACTION 97, a conference on theatre for children and young people, takes place at the Palace Theatre Watford on March 10 and 11. Organised by the Association of Professional Theatre for Children and Young People (APT ), it brings together directors, performers and writers working in the field for two days of seminars, workshops and performances.

Among the subjects being addressed is the notion of whether it is essential for children's theatre to have a child character as the protagonist. Performers include Travelling Light Theatre Company, M6 and Wolsey Theatre in Education, which will present Mirad, a Boy from Bosnia. For more information, ring Sarah Argent at APT on 0171 836 3623.

For the first time in many years, no schools were successful in being selected for the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) this year, although two out of nine schools and one sixth form made it to the final shortlist. But don't let that put your school off taking advantage of the festival and the strong workshop offerings this year, particularly as some of the productions are GCSE and A-level texts. Among this year's workshop leaders are Sandi Toksvig on improvisation, John Wright on physical theatre and Tim Piggott-Smith. For more information, ring the festival office on 0181 883 4586.

Good news for net nerds with thespian tendencies. The NSDF has launched a Web site which will provide information, summaries, photographs, live chat forums and online discussions as the festival takes place from April 2 to 9. Information on the schedule of the Scarborough-based annual event is available at http:www.nsdf. uk.inter.net, or you can e-mail andrewdmfusion.demon. co.uk.

Alexandre Dumas's La Tulipe Noire is being performed in French by the award-winning Theatre Sans Fronti res, the Northumberland-based company of international actors and musicians whose aim is to break down the barriers of language between European cultures. It is a highly physical, rip-roaring, knockabout production of the play, set in 17th-century Holland where a race is on to grow the first black tulip. At the Turtle Key Arts Centre, London, tomorrow (0171 385 4905), then at Christ's Hospital Theatre, Horsham (March 10) and the Mercury Theatre, Colchester (March 12 and 13).

It's not everyday that a youth theatre is able to commission a new play from an award-winning playwright. But that is what the Grand Theatre Blackpool's youth theatre has done. David Holman's O-U-T spells out is getting its premi re at the Grand during five performances by the youth theatre from March 20 to 22.

Inspired by Margaret Humphrey's book, Empty Cradles, about the forced migration of thousands of British children to Australia, Canada and Africa after the Second World War, the play tells the story of a child migrant desperate to be reunited with his sister. The Grand's will be taking workshops into schools that book to see the play during April and May.

For information call Celine Wyatt, education officer, on 01253 299797.

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